Calls for lessons to be learned after Wigan hospital trust apologises for “failings in care” which led to 24-hour delay in treatment for life-threatening sepsis

A woman is calling for lessons to be learned after Wigan’s hospital trust apologised for failings in her care which led to a 24-hour delay in her being treated for sepsis.
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Ella Watts, from Skelmersdale, attended Wigan A&E in December 2018 with flu-like symptoms, chest pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.

She was triaged as a category three patient and advised it would be over four hours before she would be seen by a medic.

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Under the impression there was no real need for her to be at the hospital, Ella, who was 17 at the time, returned home.

Ella WattsElla Watts
Ella Watts

By the following day, her condition had deteriorated.

She attended another hospital and was put on intravenous fluids and diagnosed with acute kidney injury secondary to sepsis – when the body attacks itself in response to an infection.

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Ella was admitted to the high dependency unit and then transferred to intensive care.

Ella was admitted to the ICU with SepsisElla was admitted to the ICU with Sepsis
Ella was admitted to the ICU with Sepsis

A line was inserted into her femoral artery to help manage her condition.

She subsequently developed respiratory failure, needed assistance with her breathing and was administered antibiotics.

Ella was discharged home one week later.

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Now 21, Ella continues to suffer psychologically, developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following her time in hospital.

She instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care under the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) which runs Wigan Infirmary.

She’s now joining with her legal team at Irwin Mitchell in marking World Sepsis Day by warning of the dangers of the life-threatening condition and the signs to look out for.

She’s also calling for lessons to be learned after the trust admitted that when Ella attended A&E, she should have been triaged as a category two patient instead of category three.

Had this happened, she “would have been seen within 60 minutes” and “treated 24 hours earlier” than she was.

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The trust has now paid an undisclosed settlement to Ella and apologised for “failings in care.”

Zoe Donohue, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Ella, said: “In the years following her diagnosis, Ella has struggled to come to terms with what she went through.

“She’s also understandably had a number of concerns around the care she was provided with and how her condition deteriorated.

“We therefore welcome the trust’s admissions that Ella should have been seen and treated earlier.

"It’s now vital that lessons are learned to improve patient care for others.

“We also join Ella in raising awareness of the dangers of sepsis.

"It’s a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition, with early diagnosis and treatment key to beating it.”

Ella was extremely weak when she was sent home from hospital and her parents had to provide her with a lot of care and support.

She is now completing a law degree but her studies were delayed due to her illness.

Ella said:

“When I initially went to the hospital, I knew I was unwell but trusted the staff knew what they were doing. When they said I wouldn’t be seen for more than four hours, I assumed they didn’t think anything was seriously wrong.

“Over the next 24 hours, my condition got worse and I was diagnosed with sepsis. It came as a huge shock and I was terrified as I had heard how serious it could be.

“That wasn’t the end of it though, as I deteriorated further and ended up in intensive care. To this day, I still can’t believe how quick it progressed and how close I was to dying.

“It still haunts me every day and I’ve really struggled to get over the trauma of what I suffered.

“While I’m incredibly grateful to still be here, it could have ended very differently.

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"I hope that something is learned to help stop others from going through a similar ordeal in the future.

“Sepsis can kill quickly, so I hope that by sharing my story I can raise awareness of what it can do and how to catch it in time.”

Ella’s mum Julia said: “It was one of the hardest times we’ve endured as a family and has had a lasting impact on us all, but the most important thing is that by speaking out we try and stop this happening to other people.

"We know we are all very lucky the outcome wasn’t fatal and that others haven’t been this fortunate.”

WWL’s medical director Prof Sanjay Arya said: “We are very sorry that the standard of care fell below the expected levels that we set, and we once again apologise to Miss Watts for her distressing experience.

"Lessons have been learned since this incident and we have implemented a number of changes to try to eliminate the possibility of this occurring in the future.

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“WWL now has a lead nurse specialising in sepsis and our Emergency Department has an ongoing sepsis improvement programme to ensure that all patients admitted to the department are screened for sepsis and receive the appropriate care.

“We strive to achieve the highest possible standards of care for all of our patients and we are fully aware that any financial compensation cannot change what has happened.”

Signs of sepsis include slurred speech, confusion, extreme shivering and muscle pain, passing no urine in a day, severe breathlessness and mottled or discoloured skin.

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